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Don’t be scared to climb a tree to find what is missing

By Charles Whatley

A famous composer had a son who was a bit rebellious. He’d stay out late at night and come home drunk. Then, before he went to bed, he’d sit down at his father’s piano and play the scale; “do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti;” and every night he’d leave off the final note. Upstairs his father would lay awake tossing and turning and worrying about that final note until he couldn’t stand it any longer. So he’d get up in the middle of the night, go downstairs, sit down at the piano, and play that one final note, “do.” Something was missing and he couldn’t rest until he found it!

And now we’ve come to Luke 19.1-10, “Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there; his name was Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way – he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.”

Zacchaeus was rich and powerful and lived in a big house on the edge of town, but something was missing and he couldn’t rest until he found it. 

Maybe Zacchaeus is the patron saint of tree-climbers? Have you ever climbed a tree? When I was 16 years old, I borrowed some pole climbers from the City of Cairo to climb a very tall pine tree in our front yard to put up a CB radio antenna. But Zacchaeus is a grown man, and grown men, especially older successful businessmen, don’t often climb trees, unless they’re deer hunting or running from a wild hog in the woods. 

Something was missing and somehow he’d heard that Jesus could find missing things. He didn’t even know what was missing, but he knew something was missing and he couldn’t rest until he found it. Something was missing and neither Zacchaeus nor Jesus could rest until they found each other.
In fact, this story ends with Jesus saying about himself, “… for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (or missing).”

Charles ‘Buddy’ Whatley is a retired United Methodist pastor and, with his wife Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

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